Tag Archives: Rock climbing

Rest and Recovery Days (We Take A Lot)

Looking at this past week, we only went to the gym three out of five days. Sunday was shoulders and climbing, Monday was legs and climbing, and Wednesday was arms and climbing. (Climbing=Bouldering, until we get more gear) That means that Tuesday and Thursday were more or less rest or recovery days, but this isn’t completely the case. Everyone works out for a different reason. Some people want to feel better, some want to look better, and some actually enjoy it. Although the first two are true for myself, I would never work out as much as I do if I didn’t enjoy it.

Rock climbing on the wall of Voiron, Auvergne ...

Rock climbing on the wall of Voiron, Auvergne Rhône-Alpes championship (Isère, France). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Going to the gym is considered a leisurely activity in my daily planner because 95% of the time, a trip to the gym is on the same level as playing video games. The other reason that they weren’t rest days is based on how active one’s lifestyle is outside of designated workouts. On both of those days, I biked over ten miles to and from jobs throughout the day. It was on a cheap mountain bike, and there were lots of uphills and changes of direction and pace. Also, I was in the water for hours treading and teaching children how to swim. I was never moving too quickly, but overall I probably “swam” a thousand yards (I should calculate, or try to, some day.) Finally, everyday I walk a dog in the foothills, and those hikes/walks are usually around 3 miles long. According to my former Taekwondo master, hiking is the greatest form of exercise in the world… even greater than taekwondo. (He is an 8th degree black belt)

Hiking Symbol


So never feel bad about taking a day off from the gym! Especially if you have an active and healthy lifestyle. Many people don’t realize just how active they are! Do you clean the house? Pick up your children and carry them around? Mow the lawn or garden? Walk the dog? Shovel snow or rake leaves? Walk up and down stairs all day? All these activities can be extremely taxing on the body and while you might not get the same effect of lifting weights in sets and reps, you can still get a heck of a workout from it.



Furthermore, rest is good as long as you don’t take too many days off it you’re trying to reach a certain goal. Some studies show that you won’t lose muscle gains for eight days, and cardio gains for three days. Now, I would not recommend taking more than two days off in a row because that should be enough recovery time for your muscle fibers, but don’t be too hard on yourself for taking some rest!

Collage of varius Gray's muscle pictures by Mi...


Letting your body over-recover is much better than not letting it recover. You want those fibers to undergo fancy scientific processes like protein synthesis so that they come back bigger and stronger. Skip the process, and risk losing the growth that you worked so hard for. Working out, eating right, and sleeping right are the easy parts… your body is doing all the hard work, just get your mind in the right place. Never be too hard on yourself (I can’t take my own advice) and always try to enjoy what you’re doing. Working out every day, or nearly, for four years is really boring, unless you love the pain and struggle.

Keep up the good work!

How We Are Going to Get Back in Shape (and you can too)!

So after figuring out our job situation, for the most part, we finally decided that it was financially reasonable and responsible to sign up for a gym membership. Ideally, as a personal trainer and a swim instructor, it’s a common perk of the job to (depending on where you work) get a free membership. As I work at a small scuba diving and swimming school, there is no fitness facility other than the pool, unlike the YMCA that I worked at before moving. Alana has a free membership to the YMCA that she works at but as it is over fifteen miles from home, it’s not worth me getting a membership, so she has that. As I look for another job for some extra hours on the extended weekends, it would be great to find a place with a lap pool where I can start some swim workouts, but until then it’s going to have to wait.

Looking around Boulder of all places, and trying to maintain a budget, we passed up on what seemed the logical choice in 24 Hour Fitness and joined the Boulder Rock Club. 24 Hour Fitness is not the kind of gym that I like to work out at because I am against that chain-feeling in general. At this location, I really got that feeling and, unless I am travelling and need a week pass to a place with everything, I don’t feel any sense of attachment to a place like that where it seems members are more so a person that is counted as they walk through the door. Again, since we’re in Boulder, we wanted to start climbing, but we also wanted a location with a general gym feeling… a locker room, a fitness center, weights, machines, etc. At a reasonable monthly rate for all these services, we took a chance with the BRC. Obviously I sacrificed a pool for the time being seeing as I am still very much so in a second job hunt.

So, having signed up two days ago we made our first trip yesterday. Time to try to get back into shape. Now, to go a little bit more in depth, there were some other factors that made us decide on the BRC. This location was a bit of a premature impulse decision but, in theory, we have no regrets because one of the best ways for individuals like us who are out of shape, but were once in shape not too too long ago, is easing back into things. We were athletes and we have ton of injuries that have healed and some that haven’t healed.

Joining a climbing club, and this location particularly, motivates us to do more body weight exercises and start to re-develop what really matters: joint strength and the like. You can have the biggest strongest muscles with amazing muscular endurance, but that doesn’t matter if your joints, ligaments, tendons, bones, and everything else supporting and interacting with your muscle systems are not prepared to handle the routines that you put yourself through. I know from experience. So we took yesterday at a snail’s pace as an opportunity to ease back in and make sure nothing was acting up before we start to kick it into higher gears.

Here’s our workout, then we’ll talk some more.

At 8:40 a.m. with an empty stomach I applied some Tiger Balm Muscle Rub to my shoulders, upper back, lower back, and neck.

Then we went through about a 30 minute bouldering session at a relatively light pace, doing novice level routes, and earning massive forearm and hand pumps in the process.

Next we moved to the weight room, which is modest, and went through a short and VERY modest shoulder routine. (I have a superior lesion from anterior to posterior in my left labrum so this is always a cautious day, especially first day back.)

1. Standing Resistance Band Rear Deltoid Flies: 3 sets with a fitting band, 15-20 reps a set

2. Standing Lateral Dumbbell Flies: 3 sets with 15 lb weights, 10-12 reps per set

3. Seated Shoulder Press: 3 sets, ascending weight from 35-45 lbs, 8-12 reps

4. Olympic Bar Shrugs: 3 sets, ascending weight from 95-115 lbs, 16-18 reps

5. Roman Chair Dips: 3 sets, body weight, 6 reps

6. Back Extension Apparatus, 3 sets, body weight, 10 reps

Now obviously, this was more or less our workout. We had to keep it short because we had to get to work and because we wanted to ease back into a fitness routine, and this was very much so easing. We hit most of our major and minor muscle groups in our shoulders, namely neglecting our front delts, scaptions, and rotator cuffs, which I rarely miss. It was not a tough workout because our warm up was not complete so I did not want to risk anything. I always warm up my shoulders before an upper body workout, especially shoulders, in order to prevent injury.

Also, we always try to incorporate some core-specific exercise into every workout, even on isolation days. Here is was the back extensions, because my lower back is very weak right now. The Tiger Balm also acts as a sort of warm up although it’s not meant to be a replacement. Why didn’t we isolate back, chest, arms, or legs first? Because I need to make sure my shoulder can withstand a workout before moving to another body part. It is extremely difficult to properly workout any body part when something is not working properly. Your muscles work tandem with one another. If something is out of whack, your whole body will be screwed up.  When I further ripped the tear in my labrum, my squat numbers plummeted because I was no longer able to balance the bar with one shoulder. So that is why we started with shoulders.

A complete weight training workout can be perf...

Weight training, brah

Now that it more or less passed the test we are prepared to hit the other body parts, and once they are all conditioned well enough we will begin complex circuit training routines. So my path I am hoping to follow, if all resources are in place, and always injury pending:

1. Mix isolated muscle group workouts with light bouldering and climbing

2. Increase weight and rep range within isolated muscle workouts

3. Increase duration of isolated muscle workouts

4. Begin to build cardio vascular capacity through cardio based workouts (run and bike)

5. Add cardio to muscle workouts through super sets

6. Begin full body circuit training 

The ideal workout week: ( I never allow for enough rest)

  • Isolated muscle workouts every/every other day, i.e. chest and triceps/back and biceps/lower body/shoulders and forearms
  • Full body circuit training, i.e. Spartacus workout version 1, three times a week
  • Bouldering and climbing every day in the gym, with these workouts
  • Cardio-based workouts (bike and run) three times a week

So that might look like: (in no particular order for each day)

Monday: Chest and triceps in the gym, circuit training session, bouldering

Tuesday: Back and biceps in the gym, 20 mile stationary bike ride, top-rope

Wednesday: Lower body in the gym, circuit training session, bouldering

Thursday: Shoulder and forearms in the gym, 3 mile treadmill run (probably not), top-rope

Friday: Core in the gym, basketball in the park

Saturday: back to the start…

I am never good at following those and I kind of ran through that but more or less we will want to start incorporating everything, easing back into our routines while adapting to our new lifestyle and workout resources. In terms of sleep, I try to get seven a night, and I take my vitamins and minerals and try to eat healthy, lots of fish… and dairy. I try to load carbs in the morning and taper off throughout the day, having a protein filled meal at night. I won’t include the scientific explanation for that process unless it’s requested.

But seriously, feel free to ask any questions about our workout or nutritional plan, and PLEASE feel free to ask for some help finding a way for you to get back into shape. Give us your background, resources, and goals and we can make it work. I love helping people achieve fitness goals.

Email us at alana.ppowell@gmail.com

Movie Night V2: Reel Rock Tour 7

For the past six or seven years (and we had no idea), the Reel Rock Tour has been spreading its love for “climbing” throughout the world (mostly the U.S.). This is obviously a big deal in Boulder, a hub for climbing and outdoor enthusiasts, so they decided to kickoff the tour here.

Marga and Megan were super nice enough to not only invite us, but also get us tickets to this amazing and popular event. The mini film festival started at 7:30 p.m. last night and we had made it just in time. One of Marga’s friends, Sheri, had saved us some great seats so we were very fortunate there because these were films you would not want to miss. They announced that the “theatre” at Chautauqua Park held 1300 people and that the event sold out for last night and tonight as well. On the trek up the hill to the big log cabin/barn where it was being held, we were given not one, but two free Clif bar samples! Awesome stuff Boulder. As Alana said, if Clif was trying to push their products, then they are in the wrong place since they’re already so popular here. And then the event began…

After some announcing and thank yous and introductions and what not they finally turned the lights off and began the show. First up was The Dura Dura, or the hard hard for our non Spanish speaking readers. Chris Sharma, a very “rad” American climber”, and Adam Ondra, a very not-rad Czech climber, competed against each other to conquer the hardest route ever climbed. It was old school vs. new school but in the end, they bonded and learned from one another. Afterwards, there was a short segment on the recent surge of powerful women climbers that have decided to not just sit back and do the easy routes, but get hungry and do the 5.13s and 14s despite the powerful moves that are required. It was a well-put together and informative film that capture some great climbing of the new hardest routes in the world that have been found in Spain. Really great stuff from amazing climbers.

Chris Sharma

English: Adam Ondra Deutsch: Adam Ondra Adam Ondra 

Then they decided to show what I thought was the best film of the night, The Shark’s Fin. The Shark’s Fin is a part of Mt. Meru in India and it is a ridiculous climb for alpinists because of the weather and altitude. The film gives a lot of background on Conrad Anker, one of the greatest alpinists of all time. After failed attempts to climb the fin in his past, Conrad has some unifinished business with his deceased best friend. Conrad puts together his 2008 expedition, despite one of the three members having gone through a skull-shattering ski accident. Through strokes, broken equipment, -25 degree temperatures, and frostbite, the close crew tries to make it to the “center of the universe” (as Hindus dub it) in their final attempt. The emotion of the story and beauty of the mountain make this film one anyone, climber or not, cannot miss.

Then there was an intermission with poorly organized giveaways! We could have gotten free gear but they didn’t explain what was going on! There was a headstand contest for the best prizes, but we are both HORRIBLE at them, especially me, so we didn’t even try. Alex Honnold, the star of the 4th film, signed posters and Sheri got one for Alana! We just wanted the next films to start asap because, thus far, they were incredible.

Next was the Wide Boys, a shorter film about crag climbing (climbing off-width cracks, using and contorting your body to hang on). It’s an insane looking and painful sport that is far less common than other forms. It is like ultimate fighting against a rock, or so they say. The film highlights Pete and Tom, two Brits that decide to leave the weak off-widths of Great Britain to climb all the cracks in the American Midwest. After two months of training in a cellar, the boys conquer them all and even end their “world tour” with an attempt at the Century Crack, the hardest off-width (that we know of) in the world. It has never been done before. This film had some great footage, but it was short and failed to really develop their story; there wasn’t the same connect as the first two films had. The emotion didn’t emerge.

Finally, the film that had everyone’s hands sweating, Honnold 3.0. Climbing is actually very safe if done with proper prep and gear. Alex Honnold is the exception to that notion of safety. Alex is arguably the greatest soloist in the world, and not a shabby sport, speed or boulderer at that. This film shows his reclusive life living out of his van with his new girlfriend. Alex trains in Bishop, CA, where Chris Sharma lived for quite some time, in order to prepare his next big feat, something that has never been done before, a triple crown of Yosemite up Mt. Watkins, the Nose, and Half Dome, in under 24 hours. He’s done all three by himself but 7,000 ft of vertical walls with free soloing (NO GEAR) 95% of his climbs, and fatigue setting in, just how safe can this invincible fearless superman be? The footage of an amazing attempt at an amazing feat was top notch and Honnold is such an interesting character that getting to see him not in hiding is a treat. A great film.

Well that’s it, we left afterwards and forgot to support the Access Fund and the American Alpine Fund by joining both for 35$, usually it’s way more than that! Silly us, we were tired and forgetful. See if the tour is coming to a place near you because its worth it!

Holding on for Dear Life

Yes, that’s us: desperately wedging our chalked, cramped fingers into the cracks of humongous rocks, boulders, and man-made wedges. We have started the awe-inspiring sport of rock climbing (thanks to Marga and Megan). It’s an unreal workout, working your finger tips, to your hips, to your toes and leaves you feeling incredibly sore the next day–especially in the forearms.

Boulder Canyon

One of our first days of just arriving in Boulder, Marga and Megan took us to Boulder Canyon to do our first outdoor climbing. We had both done various indoor climbs, just for fun, and nothing serious. This was a whole different story. The fresh air whipping past you as you’re trying to figure out a reach to your next hold, the incredible view from all sides, the real-life feeling that gets you energized–all on nature’s rock. It’s great. You feel giddy afterwards, even us rookies on easy climbs, once you finish, because you look down from the top and feel pretty awesome that you climbed all that (with amazing belayers).

I think our first climb was a 5’6, a standard ‘easy’ one, and it was a blast. Now, Chris is afraid of heights (pretty much the only thing he’s scared of), and he crossed the tyrolian which is two ropes doubled over secured between either rocks or a tree or rocks and rocks which hangs over a river. And then, he goes ahead and climbs up a freaking mountain. Pretty awesome for facing your fears, I’d say. Anyhow, unfortunately we didn’t get pics of that climb, it was so much fun.

Fred using the tyrolian to cross the river

Our next climbing adventure was indoors at the Boulder Rock Club, a totally immersive climbing gym with tons of walls and a pretty unique gym area too. Tons of levels of climbing from 5’3 to 5’12+ (something I won’t be able to even try for at least a year). We had a chance to do a bunch of them, trying out our skill with no fear of falling. We also got to try out bouldering, an activity Chris really loves. It’s just climbing low to the ground (but still very hard stuff), so you don’t need equipment. It’s a killer workout and really fun to challenge yourself with it.

Chris on the rock wall

And finally, I got out on another trip with Marga, Megan, and Fred. We went to Boulder Canyon again, but this time in Avalon. For me, it was definitely a step-up difficult-wise. The climb was a 5-7+ and it was at a slant with less big boulders and rocks to grab onto and more just flat surface with cracks in the rock to jam your fingers into.

The hike there was pretty nice, too, very steep and climbing up rocks (but not exactly rock-climbing). We got to use the tyrolian there too (as seen in picture above).

So on this climb, I struggled a bit more in where to place my hands and feet. It’s not about grabbing as hard as you can. It’s kind of like an art: it’s about grace, balance, and pressure. You just need to lightly snug your fingers onto a hold (even the smallest of holds) and you will find support. I also found that I definitely need to work on my flexibility as I almost pulled my groin as I was reaching up for another hold. But, again, that feeling when you get to the top is great. And if you know me, I love feeling sore or even having tired muscles the day of.

Marga very generously donated her old climbing shoes to me so I am slowly on my way to getting all the gear (kind of an expensive sport). We’re on the hunt for some shoes for Chris. Also, once we feel steady money-wise, we definitely want a membership to the Boulder Rock Club as they have great climbs but also a cool gym with equipment like rings, finger holds, and a rope. I am so grateful for my family introducing us to this sport, it’s something we will DEFINITELY be pursuing.